Talk on island life

Guest speaker at Kirriemuir Probus Club’s latest meeting was Frank Scott, current president of Brechin Probus Club.

Frank has a fascination for the more remote parts of Scotland and the islands of St Kilda in particular, having spent two weeks there with a National Trust working party a few years ago, helping repair the old houses in the village.

Illustrating his talk with slides taken at the time, Frank said the islands were famous for their remoteness, their bad weather, and their breeding grounds for huge numbers of seabirds, mainly gannets, puffin and fulmar.

The small group of islands, some 40 miles west of Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides, was once home to almost two hundred people, dwindling eventually to six families totalling 36 people in 1930, when evacuation to the mainland was deemed necessary.

In more recent years, the Ministry of Defence have had a tracking station on the main island, and the National Trust have been owners since 1957.

Frank told of the hard life endured by the islanders.

For several centuries the islands were owned by the Macleods of Skye, to whom the St Kildans paid rent.

Eventually the islanders lost their self-sufficiency, many had succumbed to influenza and smallpox, large numbers had emigrated’ and in 1930 the remaining 36 St Kildans requested evacuation to the mainland. Their livestock was sold at Oban Market to pay for the evacuation, and they were relocated to various parts of the mainland.

No longer a close-knit group, by and large they did not fare well after leaving the islands, jobs found for them often being unsuitable, and they were susceptible to diseases.

A vote of thanks to Frank for a most interesting talk was proposed by John Horrocks.

President Ted Williams reminded members of the Christmas Dinner on Wednesday (today) of the first meeting in 2012, on Wednesday, January 4, when the guest speaker will be the Rev. Alastair Morrice.